Jim Sanborn, creator of the famous Kryptos sculpture, has published a third clue: the word NORTHEAST appears in the plaintext of the unsolved message part.

As most readers of this blog will know, Kryptos is a sculpture located at the entrance of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It was created by local artist Jim Sanborn in 1990. Kryptos bears an encrypted inscription, which has become the most famous crypto puzzle of the last four decades. The sculpture is not accessible to the public.

Source: Dunin



As it turned out, the ciphertext on Kryptos consists of four parts encrypted in different ways. Part 1 is encrypted in a polyalphabetic cipher with the keyword PALIMPSEST, part 2 in the same way with ABSCISSA. In both cases the alphabet is used in a permuted way with the letters K, R, Y, P, T, O, and S standing at the beginning. The third part 3 of the encrypted Kryptos inscription was made with a transposition cipher.

Parts 1-3 of Kryptos were solved three times independently from each other. They were first broken in 1992 by a team of NSA cryptologists, including Ken Miller and Dennis McDaniels. Six years later, CIA employee David Stein found the three solutions, as well. As both the NSA and the CIA kept their codebreaking successes secret, the Kryptos encryption was still considered unsolved in the public, when in 1999 Jim Gillogly, a reader of this blog, found the solution of the three cryptograms and became celebrated as the first one to break them. Only later, the NSA’s and David Stein’s work were unclassified and published.

Part 4 (also known as K4) is still a mystery. Neither the cipher used nor the plaintext are known. K4 reads as follows:


Over the years, the Kryptos inscription has become one of the most famous encrypted messages in the world and the world’s most renowned crypto puzzle. And thanks to the inscription, the Kryptos sculpture has become one of the most popular works of modern art – even if this popularity is mainly due to puzzle lovers and not to art lovers.

The fourth Kryptos part is included in almost every list of famous unsolved cryptograms I am aware of, including my top 50 unsolved cryptograms list. It is There are chapters about K4 in my book Nicht zu knacken and in Craig Bauer’s Unsolved!. In addition, I wrote an article about Kryptos and K4 for the online edition of the German magazine Focus.

The community of Kryptos enthusiasts is headed by Elonka Dunin. Check here for her Kryptos web page. Although Elonka has gathered a considerable number of skilled codebreakers around her, all their efforts to break K4 have proven unseccessful to date.

Source: Schmeh

Jim Sanborn has always resisted the temptation to make a few quick dollars by creating additional encrypted artworks. One of the few exceptions is the Sanborn sculpture Cyrillic Projector, whose encrypted inscription has long been solved.


Sanborn’s hints

In 2010 Jim Sanborn offered a hint, which was first published in the New York Times. He revealed that the 64th through 69th positions of the fourth Kryptos part decrypt to the word BERLIN.

Four years later, Sanborn stated that the word CLOCK follows BERLIN in the plaintext. Again, this information was published in the New York Times. Codebreakers in all the world tried to decipher the fourth Kryptos part with the two clues, but to no avail.

For the year 2019, Sanborn announced to publish another clue. Much to the disappointment of many crypto-mystery fans, this didn’t happen. However, yesterday an article giving another hint finally appeared in the New York Times (thanks to Lance Estes and Michael Hörenberg for informing me about it). In this article it says:

So now, Mr. Sanborn, at 74, is giving the world another shot: the word NORTHEAST, at positions 26 through 34.

This means that we now know three words that appear in the plaintext of the fourth Kryptos part. In the following diagram these expressions are displayed above their ciphertext counterparts:





According to Sanborn, this third Kryptos clue is the last one. In addition, we can read the following in the New York Times article:

He [Sanborn] has decided that if the code is not broken when he dies, the secret will be put up for auction. He might even do it in his lifetime. “I do realize that the value of Kryptos is unknown and that perhaps this concept will bear little fruit,” he said. The buyer could reveal the secret or perpetuate the mystery and maintain the system for submissions.

So, if you want to know the solution of K4, you should either put some money aside for purchasing it, or you can try to figure it out based on the new clue. If you decide for the latter, you are welcome to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Further reading:
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Kommentare (41)

  1. #1 TWO
    30. Januar 2020

    Wonderful, a new clue

    I worked on it a little and came up with :

    you go northeast to gatow airport general ounge usa

  2. #2 @mxfh
    30. Januar 2020

    @TWO #1
    Southwest of Gatow Airport is the Glienicke Bridge aka Bridge of Spies.

  3. #3 Basti
    31. Januar 2020

    What a clue.

    NORTHEAST could be: hoNOR THE ASTronauts or something like this. Never it has the meaning of the direction…this would be to easy.

  4. #4 TWO
    31. Januar 2020

    They all shall go northeast
    to gatow airport general ounge

    Some more work done.

  5. #5 Basti
    31. Januar 2020

    What a clue.

    For me it looks like:

    ….hoNOR THE ASTronauts… or something like this.only the direction would be to easy

  6. #6 Ralf Buelow
    31. Januar 2020

    I am living in Berlin since 1996, but there never was a Gatow airport but only an RAF airbase (until 1990, I think).

  7. #7 TWO
    31. Januar 2020

    RAF station Gatow was built by the Luftwaffe and opened on April 1 1936.
    After the war the RAF took over the airbase and operated from it until the last flight June 30 1994.
    The motto of the RAF base Gatow was Pons Heri, Pons Hodi.which translates to a bridge yesterday, a bridge today.

    It was instrumenal in the Berlin Airlift.

    They all fit.

    And its just a nice story, that is all.

    Thank you for your comment.

    To our agents. They all shall go northeast to gatow airport general ounge usa

  8. #8 mxfh
    near Gatow
    31. Januar 2020

    It has also has quite the significance with SIGINT, was a GCHQ main interception point for east bloc communications. Maybe also the airport of choice for spies. Maybe there is also some urgency in possible physical/geograhical components of the puzzle since Gatow is getting a makover and Tegel Airport is (maybe! finally.) shuttering down soon.

    Predecessor of Teufelsberg Station.

    Even listed in this very travel guide:

  9. #10 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    31. Januar 2020

    That’s exactly why I don’t talk publicly about my work on KRYPTOS. It is all useless. Have you ever wondered why real crypto experts don’t participate in such speculations? They know that the algorithm has to be worked out first. The plaintext clues can then be used afterwards to check the result. Why has Sanborn never commented directly on the system used? Why has he never made a piece of plain text public that is at the beginning of the message? You should ask yourself such questions. Without the algorithms, Sanborn could have published 90 percent of the plaintext and it would still be impossible to decipher the rest. First work out the system used! It should be a workable (practical) system, that can be used from a spy in the field, not the Bible code. Jim Sanborn about clues to the sysem used: “They are in plain sight.” (CTV 2005). DYAHR ! Jim Sanborn: When showed the out-of-alignment letters, he said, “They’re important”. Sanborn asked Elonka if anything else had been figured out about them. (from Elonka Dunin’s 2003 roadtrip). Why am I not hearing anything about this in public speculations ??? I just always hear trash and world conspiracy theories.

  10. #11 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    31. Januar 2020

    – “The other half will be encoded in a modern system for the project by an expert cryptographer…” Is it modern to throw letters back and forth?

    – Artists express themselves through their art. Jim Sanborn said that he would give a hint every 10 years. Ten Years after Kryptos, he did a series of binary art. First clue?

    – Why did he place the HYDRA Video (DYAHR) right above Kryptos on his website?

    – On the website of Jim Sanborn, the artwork Rippowam is listed as Kryptos related art. This work of art consists among other things of binary ASCII code.

    Ask such questions!

  11. #12 TWO
    31. Januar 2020

    What I find fascinating is this :

    X X X B E
    S L O W L Y
    X X X X T O
    X X X X X I T


  12. #13 TWO
    31. Januar 2020


    I only looked Gatow up after Ralf mentioned that he never had heard of Gatow airbase.

    The article (in German language) did not mention any sigint only that Eisenhower met Clay on this airfield.

    To others I would like to repeat the polite words from Klaus :

    “or you can try to figure it out based on the new clue. If you decide for the latter, you are welcome to share your thoughts in the comments section.”

  13. #14 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    1. Februar 2020

    OK. Let’s see how far we can get here without crap and trash. Why transposition? Mr. Sanborn stated a 1 to 1 relationship between NYPVTT and BERLIN. The index of coincidence of K4 is too low for a transposition only cipher, there must be a very good scramble on the top. AND: How did the receiver of the message got the key? Ed Scheidt said: “How do you deliver a message in such a way that it conveys not only the encrypted data, but also the key?” (from Elonka Dunin’s 2003 roadtrip). And how could Mr. Sanborn create the KRYPTOS pattern in the right part of message K4? Because he could choose OBKR arbitrarily. Afterwards! OBKR is also in “plain sight”. We have to work with what we have. Not with what we don’t have. If the actual plaintext does not begin with OBKR or even UOXO, this also makes sense: “SLOWLY DESPARATLY SLOWLY … [the] DEBRIS THAT ENCUMBERED THE LOWER PART … WAS REMOVED”. I have another very! good reason to assume that the message doesn’t start with OBKR, but I’m not going to say anything about that yet.

    Another statement from Mr. Sanborn: “It’s not necessary to have a particular book to solve K4, just “to be able to read””. (Notes from the CNN documentary meeting)

  14. #15 TWO
    1. Februar 2020

    To the pilots

    They all shall go northeast to
    Gatow airport genial lounge USA

    Berlin clock synchronization finished

  15. #16 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    2. Februar 2020

    If you really really trust your solution and your skills, $50 would be a real bargain to achieve worldwide fame. Mr. Sanborn answers quickly and reliably, believe me. I claim your solution is too long …

  16. #17 Gerd
    2. Februar 2020

    >I claim your solution is too long …
    But the length matches exactly:


    So what kind of cipher system is that?

  17. #18 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    2. Februar 2020

    Am I the “German Guesser”? I don’t know. By the way I don’t like this term.
    Am I German: Yes
    Did I sent a (partial) solution to Jim Sanborn in February 2018 (exactly 1 year before the CNN documentary meeting): Yes

    I suspect some of you do not know where the term “German Guesser” comes from. You have to know that if you pay your $ 50 and submit your solution, Jim Sanborn will only give you a YES or NO. Never a reaction in any way. From the famous KRYPTOS FEES PDF: “PLEASE NOTE: THAT JIM SANBORN WILL NOT INTENTIONALLY REVEAL CLUES OR A SOLUTION TO THE REMAINING UNSOLVED K4 SECTION.” So in my case: NO. The following happened during the CNN meeting in spring 2019: “When asked about the solutions that have been sent to him (Jim Sanborn), and whether any of them were close, Jim said he got one from Germany about a year ago that was “kind of scary”, that the first part had started to look right, but then the rest didn’t.”

    I’m honest, I want to breack the message as much as everyone else. So I will not be able to provide you with all the information. But because we have the year of the 30th anniversary and because it seems that the interest in KRYPTOS has decreased considerably due to a lack of progress and information, here is some new information. Maybe they are useful for someone. What is special, is certainly not the short piece of plain text, but at what position it is and why:

    2 step encryption. I number the steps from an encryption point of view.

    ^—– Key to encrypt/decrypt the message key for step 1 (Of course you need some additional information to make uses of it. An additional secret.)

    ^—– Key or Part of it for step 1 or start of the plaintext

    Among other things and shortend, this is what Mr. Sanborn saw:


    Depends on the 2 encryption steps. The X is just a placeholder to move the text to the fifth position.

    It is a common way to transmit the encrypted message key with the message and an information how to decrypt it. See the Germans procedures in WWII. By the way: K4 is not ENIGMA coded.

    Hope this helps


  18. #19 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    2. Februar 2020

    The “X” in CIAX is correct … not a placeholder.

  19. #20 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    2. Februar 2020

    It would be interesting to know if someone else from Germany also submitted a solution in February 2018. I did. I also briefly explained how I came up with this solution. Number systems used etc.

  20. #21 TWO
    2. Februar 2020


    You could perhaps take a look at the distribution chart for K3

  21. #22 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    4. Februar 2020

    @Marc: To decrypt the message key from UOXO (CIAX or CIAW) I didn’t need any transposition. Now I’m stuck. Depending on the method, I still get a little plain text afterwards, but then it breaks off. In my opinion, a classic transposition, in which letters were exchanged, was not used or must be undone at some point. But you are right, possibly an unusual type of transposition. DYAHR can be swapped to HYDRA. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that letters have to be swapped. Take a closer look at DYAHR and consider what this type of representation could represent… You may receive a clue from the Morse code.

  22. #23 Poly
    6. Februar 2020

    The woman leaves the chamber:

    K -> man
    Y -> woman
    R -> man


    S + E = L
    S – E = U


  23. #24 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    7. Februar 2020

    @TWO: Wikipedia works on a scientific basis. Your vandalism was rightly recognized and removed in the English-language Wikipedia article! You wrote your strange, unspecified solution on the first line of the article. What’s wrong with you? $ 50 and you know the answer …

  24. #25 Michael BNGC
    Lake Constance
    8. Februar 2020

    I am not a fan of the theories, that Jim Sanborn generated any keys from the ciphertext of the other messages. Nor do I believe that apart from DYAHR there are any other clues in the ciphertexts visible on the panel. It is virtually impossible to foresee or plan what the ciphertext look like after encryption. There is a newspaper clip in the FOIA documents in which Mr. Sanborn says: “Anyone who knows a coding system called the Vigenere Tableau, invented in 1586 by French diplomat Blaise de Vigenere, will be able to decipher one half of the phrase. The other half will be encoded in a modern system…” For me this is the key message why it takes so long to decrypt this 4th message. What is modern? Like in 1586 the whole world is trying to move or replace letters back and forth. Is this modern? As Jim Sanborn has shown in other works of art (reduced 7 Bit ASCII), I concentrate on “digetal” or “binary”, whatever you want to call it, eg. ASCII code. Exactly how DYHAR can be interpreted. As a reduced 5! Bit binary ASCII Code. By the way the Berlin Clock based on a system of 5 and eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! is the 5th letter of the alphabet. DIGETAL. Mr. Sanborn just shouts out the 5 and nobody notices…

  25. #26 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    8. Februar 2020

    I told Mr. Sanborn I am working (beside other things) with 5 Bit ASCII code. I GUESS this is what him scared, not the 10 letter plaintext I sent him.

  26. #27 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    8. Februar 2020

    This is the solution for the Binary Converter (by Jim Sanborn)

    Binary Converter Row (7 Bit ASCII):

    01: 01011110000011010011100100010010011001110100011110101001001111100111
    02: 010000011000011100101110100111001111100111001011001010110100000
    03: 011111010010100010101011001010000100100110001011010010100001
    04: 000110100101000110100100110001011001100100010001011001000
    05: 00111001011100100110011101001100100010110110010101100101001
    06: 011110011111010110100010110100100101100101001010011111001111
    07: 11110010001001110101001110011111001110010110010011101001001
    08: 0011001101100100110011001010100100111110011100101100101011
    09: 0101000001101010110001101001111101001010001000101100101001
    10: 0110100101011001010110010001011010111100100110011101000111
    11: 1110100101010111100100110011100101100100011110101011010100
    12: 01100110010011001001111100001110010000101100100001010011
    13: 000110011100101100101011110010011001110100010010011111001101
    14: 00101101001001011001000011100000110100101001100100100110100
    15: 011001000001101001110100110101100100100010011111010101101001
    16: 0111110011100101100101001110011101011001100010010001011010010
    17: 0011001110100111010001011000100101100101011001000011100111

    With leading zero for 8 Bit ASCII:

    01: 010111 01000001 01010011 01001000 01001001 01001110 01000111 01010100 01001111
    02: 01000001 01000011 01001011 01010011 01001111 01001110 00101100 01010110 100000
    03: 01111 01010010 01000101 00101100 01010000 01001001 01000101 01010010 100001
    04: 0001 01010010 01000110 01001001 01000101 01001100 01000100 00101100 1000
    05: 0011 01001011 01001001 01001110 01001100 01000101 01011001 00101100 101001
    06: 0111 01001111 01010110 01000101 01010010 00101100 01010010 01001111 01001111
    07: 111 01001000 01001110 01010011 01001111 01001110 00101100 01001110 01001001
    08: 001 01001101 01001001 01001100 01010100 01001111 01001110 00101100 101011
    09: 010 01000001 01010101 01000110 01001111 01010010 01000100 00101100 101001
    10: 01 01010010 01011001 00101100 01000101 01010111 01001001 01001110 01000111
    11: 11 01010010 01010111 01001001 01001110 00101100 01000111 01010101 01010100
    12: 01 01001100 01001100 01001111 01000011 01001000 00101100 01000010 10011
    13: 0001 01001110 00101100 01010111 01001001 01001110 01000100 01001111 01001101
    14: 00101 01010010 00101100 01000011 01000001 01010010 01001100 01001001 10100
    15: 01100 01000001 01010011 01010011 00101100 01001000 01001111 01010101 101001
    16: 01111 01001110 00101100 01010011 01001110 01011001 01000100 01000101 01010010
    17: 101 01001110 01001110 01000101 01000100 01011001 00101100 01000011 100111

  27. #28 TWO
    15. Februar 2020

    I forgot to post the alphabet I am using.


    I call this the other Kryptos alphabet.

    It is on the statue.

    You just have to reverse (flip and upside down) the Vigenere side of the panels.

  28. #29 TWO
    15. Februar 2020

    And just for fun

    Berlin clock Sanborn Scheidt W H Webster

    Don’t take it too serious.

  29. #30 TWO
    17. Februar 2020

    I think I have found what is hidden in Kryptos.

    KRYPTOS means hidden

    What is hidden?

    WHA t is your position

    idbyrows – wjllaetg
    inbyrows – wzllaetg
    xlayertwo – swzllaetg – xljyertwo – s L j yertwo

    desparatly – desparatEly


    Thanks to a post in Elonka Dunin’s Kryptos group I realised how the L clue works.

  30. #31 One
    6. März 2020

    Oh, and BTW, the BINARY converter row 7 thing, shows an image that at the bottom says AVOW.

  31. #32 One
    6. März 2020

    Never Forget That After Using Anothers Table That You Clean it UP Always Remember….linclock

    That’s all I cared to do before I got generally bored, could even be a recipe too. As well as many other outputs, try doing it that way.

  32. #33 TWO
    7. März 2020

    I forgot to post this.

    I think I have found what is hidden in Kryptos.

    KRYPTOS means hidden

    What is hidden?

    WHA t is your position

    idbyrows – wjllaetg
    inbyrows – wzllaetg
    xlayertwo – swzllaetg – xljyertwo – s L j yertwo

    desparatly – desparatEly


    Whale and the number 42?

    I finally realized the above thanks to a post by jezail santhon in Elonka’s Kryptos group.

  33. #34 TWO
    8. März 2020

    Whale makes me wonder if the Beluga whale was meant.

    This species was used duing (and after) the Cold War to locate submarines.


    Mister Scheidt did say he saved the best for the last.

    Beluga caviar would fit perfectly tht description.

    If you use the standard alphabet which is present on the statue you would have 6 letters from wich letter 2 and 5 (A) are cryptograpic nulls.

    In other words the source remains the same, This could confuse a cryptanalyst trying to decode a letter which is not encoded.

  34. #35 TWO
    8. März 2020

    This makes one wonder about Yar


    Just a possibility.

  35. #36 TWO
    11. März 2020

    If AHAB points to WHALE.

    and What is your position points to Whale as in :

    WHA t is your position

    idbyrows – wjllaetg
    inbyrows – wzllaetg
    xlayertwo – swzllaetg – xljyertwo – s L j yertwo

    desparatly – desparatEly

    and Mister Sanborn is talking about the rising of the Oceans and that he wants to start a fundraiser for climate science then you could convince yourself that you have found a clue.

    But what about the other missing letters?

    Interpretatu is missing ION,

    Add the L for LION, perhaps Whale Lion per the double L?

    The NSA has an annual gathering (employees only) which has (had) a logo of a Sphynx with a satellite dish on its head.

    NSAIMXU does show up in K4.

    What about the fact that in K2 after decoding the number 42 shows up?

    A very suspicious 42 as in DB or (great) PR.if you spell it out.

    Prominent fiction author?

    Douglas Adams.

    He has the exact same species of whale in his iconic book.

  36. #37 TWO
    13. März 2020

    FitnezzJim made the following observation :

    Observation: What is your position 18 character string, 12 unique characters.

    TWO pointed out that this could spell AHAB.

    How does that work?

    Number the alphabet as follows :

    A = 1, B = 2 and so on,

    FitnezzJim counted 18 letters and 12 were unique (non double) in What is your position.


    1 = A
    8 = H
    1 = A
    2 = B

    In fact this is steganography.

    This is how you can hide information in text sentences.
    Usually short pieces of information,

    In this case unique and non unique letters were counted.

    Anorher example is counting even/odd letters or low/high letters.

    A = 1 odd
    B = 2 even
    C = 3 odd

    A – M = low
    N – Z = high

    Prison or Pow codes are usually based on systems like these.
    They are very, very time consuming but if you have nothing else to do than doing time itself?.

  37. #38 BREAKER
    28. März 2020

    I am taking the lead on this theory from the last morse segment on the landscape piece that is not solved either. Digetal Interpretatu is the hint I am working with, converting the text of K4 to morse.

    This is obviously something that has to do with the puzzle, and each of the previous ciphers – K1-K3 – are compounding to this point using the previous methods and carrying through into the next templates leaving a key for the next, accumulating the pieces for the final end in Layer Two and the overall theme of the puzzle to be found.

    I am guessing this is where the morse comes into play. I am assuming that the cipher is broken from the use of these previous clues of the Kryptos Pyramid and the reconfiguration of the

    Taking the Ciphertext of K4, I am assigning a dot to all the vowels and a dash to consonants.

    Then taking the counts of the letters from dot to dot….leaving me with a numerical sequence of: 4,1,2,3,4,2,18,10,5,5, 2,1,2,25,3,2,1,1,1,3,2

    This leaves me with a series of possible ROT values for each segment that is divided between the dots or stands for a key of some sort that is applied to the ciphertext and acts as a variable in it’s alphabet or it’s substitution.

    Using these Morse segments and ROT values I get a new set of ciphertext to work with. The (YYXZVOSAA) is the NORTHEAST location and (OZQWUU)(NAGQL) are the BERLIN CLOCK locations.


    Now to try to brute force a solve and work on variables like keyword applications in vigenere layouts to get the hints right and convert the rest

    Note: when laid into the worksheet beneath the original ciphertext, the layout of the old and new one combines along the left edge to spell out OKIQQEUSIF

    O Kick Yourself?

  38. #39 Henry
    21. Februar 2021

    @Michael BGNC

    Michael, I find what you’re saying here pretty fascinating. I’m curious if you’ve had any further insights since your last post or if you’re willing to further expand upon how you derived #18 or what you submitted to Jim.

    I haven’t been able to recreate your results, but have an idea on your methods.

    Happy to chat offline as well if you have a contact. Cheers!


  39. #40 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    21. Februar 2021


    I no longer like to discuss the KRYPTOS topic in public. But, if you are really interested in an objective discussion, you can contact me via this website: https://kryptos.hoerenberg.com

    All the best


  40. #41 Michael BGNC
    Lake Constance
    4. November 2022

    I am tired. The full content of my K4 research is available now on my “Kryptos” website. No login is required anymore. I hope someone can benefit from this.

    All the best

    Michael BGNC